Friday, July 16, 2010
Once upon a time there was a family with ancestral roots around Grand Rapids, Michigan. They knew a few things about their ancestors, such as Delilah who, they were told, was French and from whom the brown eyes in the family came. They knew that when Grandma Porter had surgery for cancer in 1930, "they found her so full of it that they just closed her up again." And they heard it declared from time to time that bad traits in the family, for whatever reason, were attributed to someone they called Great-grandmother Wells--whoever she was.
Though the family didn't know much about their ancestors, the ancestral heritage was unusually important to them. Every year on Memorial Day, as many of the family as could gather, did—even from out of state. They would drive by the brick farmhouse and little North Chester Baptist Church that had played important roles in their family history. They visited the graves of parents and grandparents and planted flowers at the headstones. And the patriarch of the family, Grandpa Hawkins, would take off his hat, bow his head, and express a prayer of gratitude for the spiritual heritage left to the family by those who had gone before.
Come to think of it, that was an interesting twist because Grandpa's own predecessors did not leave a trail of spiritual truth for him to follow. He led his father to faith just before he died, and in all the years I knew Grandpa, he didn't have any contact with his other relatives. That makes it all the more poignant that he so much appreciated the heritage into which he married.
Then one day in 1951, one group of the extended family, on furlough from far-away Africa, paid a visit to a fairly distant family member—and a seed was planted.
Beginning of Lifetime Hobby
Yes, that was my family, and I was fifteen the day we visited Guy Lockwood. He was a fellow Wells descendant, a cousin of Grandma Porter's, and a first cousin twice removed of my mother, Esther Hawkins Moneysmith. And he was a grandson of the legendary Great-grandmother Wells, who had died in 1888 when Guy was just seven.
The important thing that day was that Guy brought out and showed our family paragraphs he had copied from his grandmother’s Bible. It became clear that ancestral heritage had been important to her, too. It caught my interest enough that I copied it into a notebook. Though it would be more than a decade until, as an adult and young mother, I made my first effort to learn more about the Compton family, that exposure marked the beginning of our current family’s interest in our ancestral heritage. What a journey it has been, especially since the mid-1990s when the Internet became available!
Now, sixty years later, we know that Great-grandmother Wells, born Hannah Marie Compton, was a fine, godly woman, the youngest of eleven in a large, fascinating family. Wouldn't she be amazed to know that, more than a hundred and twenty years after her death, some of her descendants and the descendants of several of her siblings have connected with each other and continue to dig deeper into the family history—both before her and after her?
I'm going to use the above as a new introduction to the Wells page on my family-history website (www.esthersscrapbook.blogspot.com). It tells about Hannah's family--from her grandfather who had his jaw shot off in the American Revolution to tidbits like the fact that her parents had at least eighty grandchildren.